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Fast-spreading wildfire near Bemidji was 'human-caused,' authorities say

The blaze prompted an evacuation and required fire-suppression help from an airplane.

A wildfire outside of Bemidji that forced nearby resident to evacuate and required suppression efforts from water-scooping airplanes was likely caused by a person.

The Radar Fire was first detected around 3 p.m. Tuesday in Eckles Township, about 5 miles northwest of Bemidji, according to Minnesota Incident Command System. "Extremely dry conditions" allowed it to spread, and as of Thursday afternoon the blaze measured about 60 acres and was 40% contained.

The fire prompted the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office to evacuate nearby homes Tuesday, with residents later able to safely return. The firefighting efforts were hampered by boaters on nearby Lake Bemidji getting in the way of planes attempting to pick up water. (You can see video of the plane here.)

On Wednesday, the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office described the fire's start as "suspicious, and Thursday, Minnesota Incident Command System went a step further.

The wildfire, they said, was "human-caused," with multiple agencies investigating. They don't have any other details to share at this time, however. 

Related: Smoke from Canadian wildfires creating unhealthy air pollution levels in MN

They also warned about fire danger in the area, which is being exacerbated by "extremely dry conditions and a worsening drought."

Half the state is in a bout of "severe drought," with some pockets — including in Beltrami County, where the Radar wildfire burns — facing "extreme drought." And there are few signs of relief coming in the near future.

Minnesota Incident Command System said firefighters were patrolling along the eastern edge of the fire Thursday, with heavy equipment and ground crews working to put out hot spots on its west side.

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